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The Bible: The Best-Selling Book of All Time

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb
The Truth Network Radio
February 3, 2023 3:02 am

The Bible: The Best-Selling Book of All Time

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb

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February 3, 2023 3:02 am

On this episode of Our American Stories, take a listen to The History Guy as he tells the history of the Bible.

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Say free this week into your Xfinity voice remote. And we continue with our American stories. Our next story comes to us from a man who's simply known as the History Guy.

His videos are watched by hundreds of thousands of people of all ages across YouTube. The History Guy is also heard here at Our American Stories. Let's take a listen to the History Guy as he tells the history of an important book here in America and around the world, the Bible. Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those that mourn, for they shall be comforted.

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. These words from the King James Version of the Holy Bible have inspired generations of Christians. Many historians consider the Holy Bible to be the most read book in history. Author James Chapman did a survey of the most read books of the last 50 years and determined that the Holy Bible is by far the leader, having sold some 3.9 billion copies. By comparison, the number two book in that period, the quotations of Chairman Mao Zedong, have sold just 820 million copies.

Third was the Harry Potter series, about 400 million copies. This isn't a religious missive. It is a review of the translation of the most read and one of the most influential books in history. The interpretation and translation of the Holy Bible has impacted history and culture for nearly 2,000 years.

And the history of English translation of the Bible deserves to be remembered. According to biblical scholars, the people who would have experienced the ministry of Jesus live in a relatively small geographical area from Jerusalem in the south to Galilee in the north, a distance of several days walk. Jesus would have spoken Aramaic, which was the indigenous language of the area, and Koine Greek, the international language of business and education at the time. As a practicing Jew, he also would have known enough Hebrew to read and teach in the synagogue.

But the words of the book's central character did not start to be written down until 30 years after his reported death. However, once they got going, many different gospels, or good news stories in Greek, were produced by a variety of authors around the Mediterranean. They wrote in Koine Greek for a Greek audience, whereas Jesus would probably have preached in Aramaic. The gospels of the New Testament, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, were placed in the order of their theological importance as determined by early Christian leaders.

Mark was probably written before 70 AD, as he doesn't tell us about the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem by the Romans in that year, whereas the other gospel authors must have been written afterwards, as they are aware of this momentous event for Jews and Christians of the time. These gospels were copied and shared between Christian communities, as were the letters of prominent Christian teachers like Paul. Very few of these earliest manuscripts have survived to our time. A handful of second century fragments from various New Testament authors have been found, some of them relatively recently.

Like the old campfire game of telephone, each new letter offered new opportunities to introduce errors or new material that wasn't in the original. Most people at the time couldn't read, and so these letters would have been read to them at gatherings. Early church officials became concerned about the growing number, the authenticity, and the theology of this corpus.

They sought to control, or at least to guide, what early Christians heard. The earliest complete copies that we have of the New Testament today are the Codex Sinaiticus and the Codex Boticonus, both which date back to the 4th century. The Codex Sinaiticus, or Book of the Sinai, was written in Greek at the monastery of St. Catherine in the shadow of Mount Sinai. The text contains all of the scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, which are accepted by most Christians today.

Scriptures that were considered heretical, like the Gospel of Thomas, were left out. The Codex Boticonus, or the Book of the Vatican, was written in Greek as well, but no one is sure exactly where. Over time, Latin replaced Greek in Western European Bibles, while Eastern churches continued to use Greek. Although we know Latin translations existed long before this time, the first complete Latin Bible we still have today was produced at the monastery of Wehrmuth in Jarrow in Northern England.

The Codex Amiatinus, named after its current location in Tuscany, is a large, beautifully illustrated work that is 7 inches thick and weighs in at over 75 pounds. When the age of this book was recognized, it was used to highlight mistakes introduced in later Latin translations. Medieval church authorities frowned upon those who sought to translate the Bible from the official Latin texts, responding to what the Roman Church saw as heretics. Pope Innocent III banned translations of the Bible in 1199.

But translations were occurring in any case. The venerable Bede, and isn't that a cool appellation, translated the Gospel of John into Old English in the 730s. This is the first known translation into English, albeit not a version of English most modern English speakers would understand. The first serious attempt to translate the entire Bible into English was made in the late 14th century under the direction of John Wycliffe, a professor at Oxford University.

Wycliffe had the Bible translated directly from the official Latin. This translation was quite literal, which made it somewhat ironic that he was later accused of being a heretic and his Bible banned by church and English authorities. Apparently his crime was to make the wisdom of the Bible more accessible to the common people, or as he said, it helpeth Christian men to study the Gospel in that tongue in which they know best Christ's sentence. However, his Bible was indeed taken up by church and social reformers, an association which didn't help his case. The church was able to confront and control the Wycliffe Bible, but the next major translation effort would change the history of the Western Christian Church down to the present day. Martin Luther, like Wycliffe, was also a professor.

He saw the Roman Church as corrupted and in need of reform. The Roman Church sought to suppress Luther's reform initiatives and had placed him under official ban. Retiring to Wartburg Castle in Germany, Luther translated the Bible into German, and like Wycliffe, Luther went back to the original Greek texts as the basis of his work. Luther and his Bible sparked a religious Reformation, broke up the Roman Church, and led to the formation of Protestant churches. While it isn't in the direct lineage of today's English Bibles, it was Martin Luther's translation that sparked the first translation of the Bible into modern English. Henry VIII famously broke ties with the Catholic Church and became the Supreme Head of the Church of England in 1534. In 1536 he authorized Thomas Cromwell, his keeper of the Privy Seal, to create a Bible in English.

Cromwell tapped Matthew Coverdale and a publisher named Richard Grafton to complete the work. Prior to this Bible, other English Bibles had been printed illegally, including a version by William Tyndale, upon which the King's New Bible was based. The vision for the New Bible was not just an English translation to make it accessible to the everyday people, it was also a statement of Henry VIII's political power and new authority as Head of the Church, separated from Rome. It was a large book, 11 inches wide by 16 and a half inches long, and because of its size was called the Great Bible. The demands for this New Bible required fancy paper and color printing, which Cromwell had difficulty finding in England, so the first pages of the Great Bible were actually created in Paris. But the authorities in Rome learned about this new printing and seized whatever materials and printers they could discover who were involved in the process. Everything that could be recovered was smuggled back to England and the Great Bible was finally completed in April 1539.

There were six additional editions created and an estimated 9,000 copies printed by 1541. By royal decree every church in England was required to have a copy of the Great Bible, set up in some convenient place within the church that ye have care of. It was incredibly popular, so much so that Henry had to issue a proclamation to forbid the reading of the Great Bible during church services, because worshippers were reading the English Bible rather than listening to sermons. Despite the massive popularity of the Great Bible, only a few years after its publication, Henry had Parliament pass an act which decreed, no manner of persons after the 1st of October should take upon them to read openly to others in any church or open assembly when in any of the king's dominions. The Bible or any part of the scripture in English, unless he is so appointed thereunto by the king on pain of suffering 100 months imprisonment.

This act would essentially be reversed by his children. Under the reign of Queen Elizabeth, some of the more popular biblical editions were the Bishops' Bible and the Geneva Bible, which were written by Protestants sheltering in Geneva because of the reign of the Catholic Queen Mary. Neither of these received royal approval. Then Elizabeth's successor, James I commissioned around 50 scholars to write an English Bible because the versions in existence were criticized for their inaccuracies and potential deviations from the Latin editions. They utilized existing versions of the English Bible such as the one by William Tyndale and commentary by Hebrew scholars to create their new edition. The Bible commissioned by King James was published in 1611. About 20 years after its publication, a version of the King James Bible was printed without the word not in the Ten Commandments of Thou Shall Not Commit Adultery.

The edition was called the Wicked Bible and the printer was fined for the mistake. In the modern era, the Holy Bible has gone through numerous translations and versions including the Revised Standard Version and the New International Version and the New Revised Standard Version. Many of these use the discipline of textual criticism and provide substantial markup to help the modern reader understand ancient meanings. Technology today allows us to translate the Bible more quickly than ever before.

Some scholars predict that we will have a Bible translated into every language in existence by 2072. It is clear that one of the most influential books in history will continue to raise challenges well into the future. And a great job on the production as always by Greg Hengler and a special thanks to the History Guy telling us the story of the Bible, the most important book ever written in world history.

Now whether you agree with its contents or not, separate point, but its impact on the world, on literature, on the arts, on everything is, well, it's almost impossible to calculate. If you want more stories of forgotten history, please subscribe to the History Guy's YouTube channel. The History Guy history deserves to be remembered.

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Whisper: medium.en / 2023-02-03 04:28:56 / 2023-02-03 04:34:55 / 6

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